‘Power and Belief: The Reformation at 500’ now online

The Great Bible (1540)

The Great Bible (1540)

Following the Long Room display ‘Power and Belief: The Reformation at 500’ in February 2017, we are delighted to launch the online version of the work, in conjunction with our partner Google Cultural Institute. The exhibition is one of a series of events taking place in Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin, marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and Martin Luther’s 95 Theses.

The exhibition features the illustrated title page of The Great Bible (1540) which shows, under the eyes of God, Henry enthroned distributing God’s word to Cranmer (on his left) and Cromwell (on his right). Below this, Cranmer and Cromwell, hand the Bible to a priest and a nobleman. Below that again is a rabble of ordinary (though well-dressed) people shouting ‘Long live the King’ and ‘God save the King’. Strikingly, the Bible seems not to have made its way into their hands – none of these lesser individuals holds ‘Verbum Dei’.

Enchiridion oder eyn Handbuchlein … (1524)

Enchiridion oder eyn Handbuchlein … (1524)

Visitors to the site can examine in great detail a selection of Reformation works held in the Library including the only known surviving copy of the Maler edition of ‘Enchiridion oder eyn Handbuchlein …’ (1524).

The exhibition is presented by the Library in conjunction with The School of English and The School of Histories and Humanities with thanks to our colleagues in Digital Resources & Images Services and the Department of Conservation & Preservation.

Power and Belief: The Reformation at 500

A rare volume from Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s confiscated library is now on show in the Library of Trinity College Dublin as part of a new exhibition, ‘Power and Belief: The Reformation at 500’.


Hus, J. ‘Epistolae quaedam piissimae …’ Press B.5.24

‘Epistolae quaedam piissimae …’ (1537) by the Czech reformer Jan Hus was once housed in the Library of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. The work was last referenced in John Strype’s ‘Memorials of Cranmer’ (1694) as “… in the possession of a Reverend Friend of mine near Canterbury”.  Cranmer was burned as a heretic in 1556 and his books were confiscated by the authorities. The main collection was later absorbed into the library of Henry Fitzalan, 12th Earl of Arundel.

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‘A small sensation’ at TCD: the Erfurt Enchiridion (1524)

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 19 June 2013

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 19 June 2013.

Rare book collections don’t often make the headlines of foreign newspapers, and when they do it is usually for the ‘wrong’ reasons – a spectacular theft, or catastrophic destruction due to fire, flood or earthquake. So it was all the more surprising to find a story in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 19 June describing a pamphlet shelved in the Long Room of Trinity College Library as “a small sensation”.

The pamphlet in question is Enchiridion oder eyn Handbuchlein eynem yetzlichen Christen fast nutzlich bey sich zuhaben  zur stetter vbung vnnd trachtung geystlicher gesenge vnd Psalmen [Enchiridion or little handbook, quite useful for a contemporary Christian to have with him for continuous practice and contemplation of spiritual songs and psalms] (TCD shelfmark C.pp.37 no.6).

Enchiridion oder eyn Handbuchlein eynem yetzlichen Christen fast nutzlich bey sich zuhaben  zur stetter vbung vnnd trachtung geystlicher gesenge vnd Psalmen

Title page of the rediscovered work.

Not exactly a catchy title, but this is nevertheless a very significant item, being the first published collection of Lutheran hymns, issued in Erfurt in 1524. Martin Luther saw hymn-singing as an important means of communicating the message of the Reformation, as well as a way of fostering a sense of community amongst those who espoused his reforms. The hymns he and others composed were instantly popular and spread quickly and widely, first by ‘word of mouth’, but soon in printed form.

Two editions of the Enchiridion were published almost simultaneously in 1524 by two competing Erfurt printers, Johannes Loersfeld and Matthes Maler. Scholars surmise that Maler copied his version from Loersfeld’s incomplete galley proofs (which he may even have stolen!). Both editions show signs of haste in their production so it is likely that they were issued under pressure in order to cash in on strong current demand. The Maler edition contains 26 hymn texts and 15 tunes, the majority written by Martin Luther.

And why is this “a small sensation”? These paper-bound hymnals were intended to be carried around and used regularly, so few survived for long. Only two remaining copies of the Loersfeld edition are known – held in libraries in Goslar (in central Germany) and Strasbourg. It was assumed that the last surviving copy of the Maler edition was destroyed by fire when the City Library in Strasbourg was bombarded during the Franco-Prussian War in August 1870. Luckily this copy had been reprinted in facsimile in 1848, so its contents were still available even if the quality of the reproduction was poor.

Page from the Enchiridion

Page from the Enchiridion.

However, since 1841 TCD has also owned a copy of the Maler edition of 1524, purchased as part of a large collection of publications from the Reformation period. For unknown reasons, this copy is not recorded in the standard bibliography of German hymnals and was therefore unnoticed by international scholars. This came to light in early June during research for the next Long Room exhibition (‘In Tune: a millennium of music in Trinity College Library’, due to open in October). When reported to a leading expert, Dr. Helmut Lauterwasser at the Bavarian State Library, he at first assumed that we must have the 1848 facsimile, but photographs of the title page and colophon quickly convinced him that ours was an original print, and thus a thrilling rediscovery. The book has now been digitised, and has already caused excitement amongst researchers in Germany and the United States.

Roy Stanley, Music Librarian, Trinity College Library Dublin